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OpenAirplane Makes Renting Business Aircraft Easier

Dec. 9, 2013

Listen to this edition of the NBAA Flight Plan podcast for more on how OpenAirplane works.

What keeps business people from renting a light aircraft to expedite business travel when are away from their home base? For many, it’s the rental pilot checkout procedure.

“It’s an hour on the ground and perhaps two-and-a-half in the air just to prove you know how to fly that particular aircraft,” said Rod Rakic, a pilot who often flies in the course of business. “On top of that, the checkout alone can cost several hundred dollars. That’s before you’ve flown a single mile on your business mission.”

With that in mind, Rakic, along with Adam Fast, founded OpenAirplane, a six-month-old Chicago-based company that combines the Internet, mobile apps and a growing network of aircraft providers to get more pilots into the air, regardless of where they are when they want to fly.

Pilots can join OpenAirplane for free, but they must complete what Rakic calls a universal pilot checkout (UPC). Designed to follow the FAA’s Practical Test Standards, the UPC is administered to OpenAirplane pilots once every 12 months.

“Each checkout is specific to a make and model,” explained Rakic. “You can do an abbreviated UPC for each new airframe. In 12 months, when it’s time for your standard evaluation, you just have to fly in the most capable aircraft you have in your stack.”

Successful completion of the UPC enables pilots to rent aircraft at any one of the participating flight schools and FBOs. Currently, there are 30 participating aircraft providers in the continental U.S. and Alaska. The network is adding one new provider each week, Rakic said.

The OpenAirplane system offers what Rakic calls the first-ever completely transparent ratings system for both pilots and providers.

“We have a reputation system. The annual check ride is just one piece of the puzzle,” explained Rakic. “After completing a rental flight, the pilot can rate both the airframe and the operator. The flipside is true as well. The operator rates the pilot after the flight,” Rakic said.

The OpenAirplane system is designed for pilots whose travel takes them to distant regions where they have a number of stops to make. For example, a pilot from Chicago has a number of business calls to make in Florida. Rather than travel all the way to Florida in a GA aircraft, Rakic said the pilot could fly commercial to Orlando, then, using his or her OpenAirplane app, quickly locate an aircraft and engage it to fly to multiple destinations within the region.

“So a pilot can fly from Orlando to Jacksonville to Tallahassee and back to Orlando in a single day rather than spend much more time being forced to drive a rental car to each city,” said Rakic.

Currently, he said, more than 4,000 pilots have joined OpenAirplane, and the company is looking for more pilots and operators.

“This is a way to increase both the utilization of aircraft and the return on investment each pilot makes in his own certification,” Rakic said. “We have near universal support from the insurance carriers because we told them we are enabling pilots to fly more and therefore making better use of the airframes. Ultimately, we’re helping to make flying safer.”